Rochette wins 6th straight Canadian title
Joannie Rochette is right where she wants to be heading into the Vancouver Olympics.
That is, sporting her sixth straight Canadian title.
The Ile Dupas, Que., native pulled off her best performance of the season in the women's free skate on Saturday to overtake Cynthia Phaneuf for gold at the Canadian figure-skating championships in London, Ont.
Rochette, who was trailing Phaneuf after the short program on Friday, scored a Canadian-record 208.23 points overall, setting the stage, she hopes, for a strong showing at the Olympics.
The relief was clear as she wiped tears from her eyes, while waving to the crowd that was on its feet at the John Labatt Centre.
"I don't know [why I cried]," she said. "It's the sixth time I was going for this title. It seems like every year I'm more nervous about it. Even though I was qualified for the Games, it was really important for me to come here and do two strong performances.
"At the end, you know when you can finally breathe and you can enjoy it and you look at the crowd and people are cheering for you, right before the Olympics. … And the extra pressure of me being second after the short [program], I was just so relieved and happy I could do it tonight."
Rochette's routine, done to Samson and Delilah, was mistake-free and full of confidence, a good sign for the medal contender heading into the Olympics. Rochette had several slip-ups in the short program Friday, but any nerves before or during the free skate didn't show.
She has had a shaky season that included a fifth-place finish at the Grand Prix Final last month in Japan, but she was rock-solid Saturday, landing seven triple jumps to score a whopping 144.08 points for her performance.
Rochette took a mental break after her stumble at the Grand Prix Final, heading home to Quebec to clear her head. Asked if her performance sends a message to her Olympic rivals, Rochette said, most importantly, it was the perfect message to send to herself.
"Definitely, it's saying that I'm ready, I'm back," Rochette said. "It's the second part of my season and I'm starting with a new wind. That feels really good.
"I feel I'm just starting a brand new season and I can feel clear about it in my head," added Rochette, whose six Canadian women's titles tie Jennifer Robinson.
Constance Samuel won nine women's titles in the 1920s and early '30s.
Team Canada takes shape
Rochette, Phaneuf, Bryce Davison and Jessica Dube, and pairs silver medallists Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay were all named to Canada's team for Vancouver on Saturday, in a presentation of their official Olympic jackets.
Phaneuf showed that she was game for the challenge. The Contrecoeur, Que., native didn't succumb to any nerves, as she has been prone to do in the past.
Phaneuf, celebrating her 21st birthday Saturday, had a couple stumbles during her program — and one slip on her final step — but made no big errors on the way to scoring 116.25 points, and nabbed the second and final Olympic spot in the process with a total score of 182.55.
Rochette, who turned 24 Wednesday, dethroned Phaneuf in London in 2005 to start her six-title run.
Myriane Samson of Greefield Park, Que., won bronze with a score of 151.10.
The men's free program is scheduled for Sunday at 4 p.m. ET (CBC, CBCSports.ca).